A Taj Impressive!

Obviously I had to visit the Taj Mahal! I’m in India and in my opinion, to not see this UNESCO site while in the general vicinity is atrocious. So I hit Agra to see what all this malarkey is about…

To be blunt, Agra doesn’t have that much to offer outside of the expected so I stuck to the three main attractions, the fort, the tomb of I’timād-ud-Daulah, aka Baby Taj and of course the Taj Mahal, the iconic white marble mausoleum on the south bank of the Yamuna river.

At first I wasn’t too excited about the fort since Jodhpur, nothing could compare but I’m glad I went as it’s an impressive place.

The walls look incredibly impenetrable from the outside and it’s also surrounded by an extremely well-built moat. Inside there are some wonderfully powerful constructions with arches that just ooze power and garden spaces which purvey elegance.

Unfortunately I had to rush my viewing due to my driver waiting — a tuk-tuk, no Roller here!

An excerpt from The Oxford Dictionary (Moog Edition):

Tuk-wit /ˈtʌkwɪt/ noun VULGAR SLANG — a devious or contemptible person (never to be trusted).

Now this is where I can warn others; never EVER trust a tuk driver, no matter how nice or friendly they may appear, even engaging in family chat or sharing their life details with you. I’m sorry to say that it’s all part of a plan to play you and take advantage. My particular driver used a cunning scam that involves offering a drive to all the places you want to go and while he’s driving he gives you a book of references and components from fellow travellers that have previously used his ‘service’. He even didn’t take payment for the ride from the train station to my hostel as long as I agreed to be picked up at 11:30 that day — all VERY convincing and trust building.

Without going into detail too much, the scam basically involved switching drivers with his ‘pal’ who after driving for the latter half wanted a rather large tip additional to the agreed price of the tour.

In hindsight it wouldn’t surprise me if the twat called Shubba — if that’s even his real name — had his friends write the book entries! So there! Just trust your instincts and be extremely demanding as you’re the one with the money and therefore the power. Oh and if you’re interested, his ‘pal’ got a very good verbal tip once I’d paid the agreed price.

Now I’ve got over that point and arranged some anger management sessions let’s get back onto Agra.

Small but big.

My next stop was the Baby Taj, an amazing place of high detail and beauty but unfortunately it’s not being looked after that well and is starting to degrade.

I can only assume this is due to being overlooked with the Mahal although, the place had me gawping in awe but the best was still to come.

Check out whitey!

Throughout my trip through India I’ve been asked to star in selfies with couples, groups and individuals which I found endearing. I say ‘star’ as that’s almost how it feels when I’m asked with such regard! There is a curiosity among the locals that isn’t suppressed by any means and it was during my ride through Agra where two young lads, riding a moped, saw me on a main road. At first they were excited to say hi but as their excitement grew with my response, they nearly rode straight into the rear of a horse and cart, swerving with what must have been an inch of space.

CUJO – Deathly Killer Fog

I’d heard a lot from home about the deathly killer fog from Delhi and oh boy had it landed at Agra the following morning! Objects 50m away were beginning to be obscured by a yellowish white haze and anything further than 300m was a blur. To make matters worse I’d developed a cold and my nose was either blocked or running, The two may have been linked(?). Time was short as I had only allowed for one day — I most definitely didn’t want to be breathing the unknown filth for too long — so I made way to see the mighty Taj.

WOW! and double WOW!

…Is all I can say to describe the Taj Mahal. Not only is it much bigger than I expected but the place is a stunning beauty!

ABOVE: loving the views, smelling the fumes.

I cannot put into words the effect the place had on me, especially considering the technical detail such as the fact that all of the lettering is inlaid marble — no paint — and that everything, even the surrounding buildings are all perfectly in line with the queen’s sarcophagus! A true sight to behold and for me, an emotional moment of awe.

ABOVE: The place is huge, and this is only the central building too!

I’d paid to go inside the main mausoleum at very little extra and I’m glad I did. The inside was amazing and the marble grille walls were a work to behold. This was when I realised just how the entire complex was in line with the queen’s sarcophagus but also noticed that the king had placed himself to one side.

ABOVE: The detail is breathtaking.

I’m told that the entire place was built to show the love he had for his queen and once you experience the place, it all makes sense and his feelings are almost still palpable! Photography wasn’t allowed here so you’ll just have to take my word.

Keeping us all safe and snug.

India has an obsession with security. Let me improve on that; India has a weird obsession with fake security. Nearly everywhere you go in busy areas of cities and especially tourist sights or train stations, I walked through metal detectors and sometimes also frisked with bag checks. The funny thing is that 75% of the timethe metal detector is blatantly not on, or if it is it’s in a terrible state of repair. What I found more funny is that even if it went off, not much attention was paid or people were easily able to walk round them. I understand that there are some serious ‘terrorist’ (oh how I despise that term) threats in India, I find it all more of a pantomime than what it’s supposed to be.

Uber — Not such an outstanding example.

Getting around India was simple, with a choice of either Cycle Rickshaw, Taxi or Tuk-wit. Unfortunately each one involved the dreaded life–wasting time of haggling a ridiculous price as I had to tame the imbercile trying to extort from me. While discussing such a point with other travellers I was put onto using Uber to get around. DERR! Why didn’t I think of that?! I don’t know why but in my overlooking the fact that everyone around me — even a farmer with his ox driven cart — had a smart phone, had led me to not even consider such but thankfully it became a real boon. It also opened my eyes to just how much tuk-wits were hiking their prices, much to my annoyance. Grrr…

Booking an Uber was a breeze, no haggle, no bullshit and no scam. You pay, get in, arrive and it’s done. Ermmm that’s how it should be right? …Except I noticed a few drivers arriving 10mins early causing me to rush if it was a journey to the bus station. In hindsight I soon realised that this in itself was a scam as I was charged for waiting!

Dammit!

Next stop … Varanasi.

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